Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mom! There’s a Lion in the Toilet!

Title: Mom! There's a lion in the toilet!
Author: Lisa Anderson

Author's blog: Click here
Available as an e-book via smashwords and in print format. More details on the author's blog. Click here

My views:

Five months of travelling around the world, made it one helluva educational trip for the Anderson family. During this trip they were not ‘home-schooled’ but ‘world-schooled’.

As Derek, the oldest of the kids, all of 16 years old, pointed out in the opening chapter, it all began with the family tradition. Each new year, the Anderson’s make a family goal and for Rick their father the goal for the coming year was a trip around the world. What is more, each one got to choose where they wanted to go.

So, Katie, the 6 year old wanted to ride an elephant and Thailand was jotted down on the itinerary. Twelve year old Jaclyn was studying pyramids and Egypt is where she wanted to visit, Travis, 14 years old wanted to hike the Inca Trials, in Machu Picchu, Peru and other countries were added along the way.

Unlike most backpackers, this family also had to pack a pair of dancing shoes! Just before the world trip began, Jaclyn sailed through the competitive Irish dancing feat and made it to the nationals – she had to practice to be in form when they returned for the nationals. With all this and more happening it was a mad rush to their first destination – Peru.

Their experiences around the world – six continents to be precise – with countries and locations as diverse as Peru in South America; Los Angeles in United States; Pompei in Italy; Pelopennese area in Greece; the beaches of Thailand; Cario, the black and white desserts the closed zone south to Luxor in Egypt; a lot of travel in Australia and lastly some “rest and recuperation” in Hawaii (where they experienced the Tsunami! ) are vividly captured through the voice of different family members in the book. Fortunately, the Andersons just about escaped the the uprising in Egypt, which took place six weeks after they had left Egypt.

Many things stand out in this book. Such as the encounter with two teenage moms outside a swanky mall in Peru. Each of them were holding an infant and gesturing that they needed money to feed their children. After a bit of deliberation Lisa gave them a few bills. Jaclyn wanted to know why. Her response: “That’s a hard question, JC. In honesty, I don’t think tourists, or anyone, should support the action of begging. It sends the wrong message, because it is demeaning for them, and contributes to a negative environment. If looking sad, dirty and needy is rewarded by a big purse, then people in need are not encouraged to make positive changes in their life.” “But if that’s the way you feel, why did you give those girls some money?” she countered. “There’s the dilemma. They looked like they could really use the hand up,” I answered. I wished I had a better answer, both for her and for them.

(Isn’t this something that each of us have to battle with, when travelling in a developing country where beggary is rampant. Sadly, beggars are themselves sometimes victims of a larger gang that takes away their daily earnings from begging, leaving them with almost nothing. In some countries, begging is considered to be a criminal activity and the homeless who are victims of circumstances find themselves punished for being poor.)

The kids also matured along the way, they learnt how to accept diversity, to learn what acceptable behaviour is, and they developed empathy and understanding. Take for example, their experience at the Arizona Memorial, where many of the staff members were Veterans.
Travis protested against the raucous behaviour of another group of tourist-kids, was overheard by a Veteran, who was most touched by the respect that Travis was showing and thanked him.

Even issues of genetically modified crops and the impact it is having on the lives of several rural folks in some parts of the world were dealt with in this book.

In addition to raising such serious issues, the book also captures vividly the fun and laughter, the Christmas spent in warm Phuket, Thailand and finally the joy of returning to the comforts of home.
Of course, one of the cutest experiences has led to the title of the book. Katie, at the Bali Safari, got to visit a clean porcelain toilet with an easy to flush mechanism and was pleased as punch. Till she went to the wash-basin to wash her hands and found a lion staring at her, rather he pressed his nose close, much too close. The lion was on another side of a thick glass wall! But, startled and shocked Katie left the water running and tore out of the washroom yelling at the top of her lungs, right through the restaurant, “MMMMMOOOOOOMMMMM! There’s a lion in the toilet!!!”

As the book is written in many voices – it is more in the nature of a family’s diary and makes for an interesting read. That said, it is likely that young readers may not be able to keep track of who experienced what and where. I also wish a biography of the family had been provided at the beginning of the book.

All in all, this book is a good read, packed with knowledge and funny moments. It may inspire other families to travel to another country, if not globe trot across the world.

Lisa will be sending along two copies for the school that I support, it will be a good addition for their library. Thank you, Lisa.

Interview with Lisa Anderson

1) If you could do anything differently on this trip or in planning for this trip, what would you have done differently?

Planning for our trip happened on the go - it enabled us to be responsive to our family needs as well as the natural disasters that occurred and had us changing plans. I wish we might have visited the Great Barrier Reef and New Zealand, as we had intended originally, but as you read, that could not happen. I am glad we were able to keep our family safe.

2) Which moment will linger on with you for a lifetime?

The feeling of complete satisfaction while sitting in silence at the top of the volcano in Hawaii, watching the sun set over the ocean with our family holding hands together. It still chokes me up thinking about it, because we all realized how much we had seen and done, and how much closer we felt to each other because of these common experiences. It was the exact reason Rick and I took our children away on this adventure, and we all knew it had been accomplished.

3) What would you like to tell a family with school kids, which is hesitating to travel for a long duration?

It was a life-changing experience for us, and for our children. I love the saying: Parents give their children two things. One is roots, the other is wings. The five months they "missed" at home were not really missed at all.

Source of the photograph: Downloaded from Flickr and used as per the terms of the Creative Commons License.


Susan Oakes said...

I love the title of the book and it is yet another based on this article that I will add to look at.

Geek Girl said...

I love this post. Great title for a book! KUDOS to the parents for taking their children on this adventure. Lastly thanks to them for sharing their experiences in the book.

Catarina said...

Sounds like an interesting book Lubna. In particular I think it would be great for parents to read to their children - and then do the same thing with their kids.

Susan P. Cooper said...

What an amazing experience that must have been for the family. it will stay with them for a life time. The lessons learned on this trip will be something that will be enduring for ever. one note: i too remember setting on that very same volcano and feeling a totally sense of awareness and peace. It is and was a great memory. I love this post and all that it says. I will be checking out that book for sure. :-)

Kelly Wade said...

This sounds like a really cool book. Some of the best books I've read have switched voices from character to character and I thoroughly enjoyed it although it sounds like this one may get confusing with so many different people. Its weird that they don't give a better biography of the family because taking a trip around the world is expensive! I wonder what kind of occupations the parents had to save enough money to do this.

Jeri said...

Sounds like a memorable family and memorable book. I truly envy families who do things like that. We can all learn a lesson from them about really getting out there and seeing the world.

Destination Infinity said...

'One is roots, another is wings' - These two are equally essential. But in India, we believe in giving kids only the roots. But, things are changing now.

You should also include the Genre: Fiction/Non-Fiction. If Fiction, then historical fiction, contemporary fiction, etc. at the beginning of each review. I almost thought this was a story, during the first few paras.

Taking a vacation for the long-term, is almost an impossibility in the Indian scheme of doing things, I guess.

Destination Infinity

Scott said...

Sounds like a great book, we can't all spend 5 months traveling but opening horizons is something everyone should make a priority!

nicole | teacups + B cups said...

I want to do this. Without kids. And then with kids. Is that weird?

And thank you for using the word "helluva!"

Krystyna Lagowski said...

My cousin has taken a year off and is travelling around the world with her family for these exact reasons - school learning is one thing, life learning is another. These kids will never forget this experience, and it will inform their future like a classroom never could. Great to read!